the nuclear waste non-issue?
December 17, 2006 12:17pm CST
it seems fairly obvious to me that if we want to rid ourselves the burden of fossil fuels, then at present we have only one real option- nuclear power. i hope that one day renewable energy can power everything cleanly and efficiently, or perhaps some as yet undiscoved resource ( zero-point energy, anyone?). but our present infrastruture meshes nicely with expanded nuclear power. there are many benefits to updated systems, and hardly a draw back. i could go into benefits, but for now i'll focus on fission's Achilles' heel- radioactive waste. disposal underground seems too much like the cartoonish cliche of sweeping your trash under the rug. at some point these storage sights will be problematic, hopefully long from now. and sending this radiological refuse into orbit is far too tricky and expensive right? well, i contend that all of this messy rocketry isn't needed to dispose of nuclear waste. it is my understanding that most nuclear fuel is in the form of small pellets, stored in meters-long rods. first, coat these pellets with a durable coating, something cheap, like aluminum oxide. a very thin coating would be sufficient, aluminum oxide is quite stable, it is what sapphires are made of. seal the pellets in a sturdy container and then blast them into the sun. trust me, with the Sun's kind of girth, all the uranium in the world ten times over wouldn't even be a blip on the sun's radar. but how to accomplish this feat? simple. design an enormous railgun. aim. shoot. even if the delivery vehicle, which would be essentially a giant sled, were to fail, the absence of volitile propellents would allow the cargo to fall back to earth unscathed, across a fairly confined path. needless to say, nobody would want to live underneath the flight path, but clean up would be quick and straight forward. time the delivery right and the sun will gladly ingest our slop. that's the plan anyway. anyone got a couple of billion lying around so we can get started? what do you guys think?